Despite the state’s annual $330 million tax incentives program, on-location filming in greater Los Angeles fell for a third consecutive quarter, dipping 3.5% to 9,455 shoot days in the third quarter of 2017 compared with the same period last year. On-location filming fell 4.7% in the second quarter and a whopping 36.3% in the first quarter
On-location production of feature films, commercials, and TV dramas were the quarter’s few bright spots. Everything else was down. Film production was up 7.6%, TV dramas were up 4.1%, and commercial production rose 7.2% despite the fact that they’re not eligible for state tax incentives.
Overall, on-location television production fell 9.1%, yielding 4,021 shooting days in the city and county. TV pilots plunged 60.3%; TV comedies fell 17.3%; Web-based TV was down 14.3%, and reality TV fell 20.4%. FilmLA said that reality TV production, which is not eligible for tax incentives, “continues to be crowded out by a shift to scripted content.”
Tax credit-eligible feature films contributed only 133 on-location shooting days in the third quarter, or 11.3% of all features shot here on location. Incentivized features that filmed here in the third quarter were Ad Astra, Backseat, Book Club and Bright.
Incentivized TV drama projects contributed 436 on-location shooting days, or 35.4% of all on-location TV drama shoot days. Those filming here in the third quarter were Code Black, American Horror Story: Cult, Heathers, Law & Order True Crime, Lucifer and The Orville.
Olive Forever, the only incentivized TV pilot that shot here in the third quarter, contributed just 10 shoot days, or 16.6% of all the pilots shot here on location.
FilmLA said the nose dive in TV pilot pilots in the third quarter was due to declining activity that began last year and “the record number of shows that are already in production or airing.”
“It is important to note that despite a year-over-year decline in numbers for the third quarter, on-location production counts are over 10% higher than five years ago,” said FilmLA president Paul Audley. “That brings a steadier employment picture for area cast and crew, and relief to local small business owners happy to see filming come back.”
A “shoot day” is defined as “one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24- hour period.” FilmLA’s data does not include production that occurs on certified sound stages or in areas outside its jurisdiction.
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In what could mark a turning point in the television industry’s diversity efforts, a new DGA report has found that first-time women and minority TV directors saw record gains this year, with more than twice as many freshman minority directors and nearly twice as many first-time female directors being hired this season than last. The report, which covers all episodic TV series shot under DGA contracts, reveals that the number of first-time minority and women directors hit record highs this year, and set a record year-to-year single season increase.
Based on these new numbers, the DGA, which for decades has been pressing the industry to be more inclusive, finally has something to crow about.
“Finally, after years of our efforts to educate the industry, hold employers accountable through our contracts, and push them to do better, we’re seeing signs of meaningful improvement,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme.
Peak TV and the explosion of new shows and delivery platforms has opened the door to many more first-time directors than in years past, and while the directing pie has dramatically expanded for all first-timers, women and minority directors are now getting a bigger slice of it.
In the 2016/17 season, an all-time high of 225 directors who had never before directed episodic television were hired by studios, networks and executive producers, representing a steep 42% increase in first-time TV directors over the previous season. This increase significantly outpaced the growth in the total volume of TV episodes and represented a 127% jump since the 2009/10 season, when the guild first started releasing hiring data on first-time TV directors.
The report, which excludes pilots, found that:
Of the 225 first-timers hired this season, 56 – nearly one-in-four – were ethnic minorities, which was way up from the 2015/16 season, when only 24 (15%) – or less than one-in-seven – were hired.
Of all the first-time directors hired this season, 73 (32.4%) were women, which was also way up from 38 (24%) the prior season.
And of all first-time directors this season, 18 (8%) were female minorities – triple the number and more than twice the percentage from the prior year, when only six were female minorities (3.8%).
“The move toward inclusion – after years of glacial progress – suggests that qualified people who have previously been overlooked because of their race or gender are beginning to get recognition and opportunities commensurate with their talent,” the guild said in a statement.
“The fact is, it all starts with the pipeline,” Schlamme said. “The hiring decisions employers make today can have enormous impact on the composition of the pool in two years, five years, ten years’ time. Our research shows that when employers actually do the work of being inclusive, they find talented directors who overwhelmingly succeed in establishing longer-term careers.”
The percentage of males and male Caucasian first-timers were both down this year compared to last year, but because of the expansion of the pool of first-timers overall, their absolute numbers still grew to new heights. The guild found that:
Of the first-timers hired this season, a record 161 (72%) were Caucasian, which was up from 133 hired last season, but down from the 84% of all first-timers hired last year.
Employers hired a record 152 males (67.6% of all first-time hires in the 2016/17 season), which was up from 120 from the year before, but down as an overall percentage, when males got 76% of all first-time directing jobs.
And the 108 male Caucasians first-timers hired this season (48%) was still up from the 102 hired last season, but was down from the 65% of all first-timers hired last year.
The guild has been reporting on diversity in hiring for more than two decades as part of its ongoing campaign to encourage inclusion – which also includes numerous member programs such as a recently launched TV director mentorship initiative. The guild says that by seeking to change the pipeline – the point of entry – it hopes to change “the imbalanced hiring pool over the long term.” The DGA began issuing its annual surveys of trends in first-time hires in 2010, and precedes the DGA’s upcoming annual diversity report on all episodic TV director hiring.
The guild is still not pleased, however, with the fact that nearly two-thirds of all first-time directors hired since the 2009/10 season were already affiliated with the series for which they were hired, either as actors, writers, producers, editors and other members of the crew, and that only 28% were what the guild calls “career-track directors” who were unaffiliated with the series but had previously directed in other categories, such as feature films, commercials and reality TV shows.
And while it is not uncommon for stars to be given an opportunity to direct an episode of their own shows, the DGA report makes a strong case that women and minority cast and crew members who are given directing “perks” are much less likely to direct again than are the outsiders with directing experience brought in to direct their first episodic show.
The guild’s data shows that over the last eight years, just 40% of series-affiliated directors went on to work as directors on other series, indicating a “breakage” rate of 60% who never made it from the pipeline to the general hiring pool. On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of career-track directors (71%) did go on to direct episodes on other series. The most successful career-track directors were women and minorities, with 97% of the first-time women directors (28 out of 29) and 85% of the minorities (28 out of 33) going on to direct on other series.
“Despite this strong record among career-track directors,” the guild said, “employers hired a record 125 series-affiliated individuals as first-time TV directors in the 2016/17 season – up from 106 the year prior.”
“The rapid growth in the proportion of episodes given to first-time TV directors is the result of some factors that are very positive, and others that require further monitoring,” Schlamme said. “On the one hand, we’re delighted to see the jump in first breaks for talented women and minority directors who are building long-term careers. This validates what we’ve advocated for years and demonstrates what’s possible when employers adopt more inclusive hiring practices. On the other hand, too many of those valued first-time jobs are still being reserved for individuals who work on a series in some other capacity – and as our statistics show, are much less likely to continue a career in directing. If the goal is to feed the pipeline with the directors of the future, it’s important that employers provide the first-time opportunities to those most likely to go on and become career directors.”
EXCLUSIVE: An accident on the set of U.S. indie El Chicano in Calgary sent a camera crew scrambling for their lives last week when a stunt car traveling in reverse crashed into a taco truck, sending the larger vehicle careening into their camera platform. The incident being investigated by actors union ACTRA Alberta and IATSE Local 669, which represents the film’s crew.
Footage of Wednesday’s accident was posted to social media but has been taken down.
The film’s production company won’t say if anyone was hurt, but quick thinking by a colleague might have saved a camera operator from serious injury. “Have to thank my dolly grip for saving my ass,” the operator wrote on Facebook.
After the accident, the camera operator posted on Facebook that he had “total reservations” about filming the stunt but went ahead with it despite his better judgment. “I have seen people die on set, and yet, in the given circumstances, I felt that I was expected to do the shot as planned and was assured by all the people above me that we were following all protocols. Post-crash, I was furious with production for putting me in that position. I had to demand that they actually debrief the accident before moving on and continuing to shoot. It was completely crazy.
He continued: “And for all the people who say, ‘Oh, you can say no,’ or refuse to work, the people on our team who declined to work were personally emailed by production to be chastised for their ‘negative impact on the show.’ It’s systemic. It has to change. An independent safety officer should have to sign off on all stunts. That stunt was all about math gone wrong – basic stuff that seems so obvious in hindsight, but not so in the immediate moment.”
The accident, he added, “was a strong reminder that we have to say NO to dangerous situations.”
The accident highlights the dangers that camera crews face on film sets. The last two stunt-related deaths have both been stunt performers — John Bernnecker in July on The Walking Dead in Atlanta and Joi “S.J.” Harris on Deadpool 2 last month in British Columbia – but far more camera operators have been killed on film and TV productions in recent years than stunt performers. In the decade before 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed on the Georgia set of Midnight Rider in 2014, more than four times as many camera department personnel had been killed making movies and TV shows than stunt performers.
A production manager for El Chicano declined comment. The film is being directed by Ben Bray and stars George Lopez, Raúl Castillo, Aimee Garcia and Kate Del Castillo.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would, for the first time, create nationwide workplace protections for child actors. Currently, kids working in the film and TV industry are exempt from federal laws governing the employment of children, and must instead rely on a crazy-quilt of wildly varying state laws governing their safety and the hours they can be employed.
“We must do all we can to protect our kids and keep them out of harm’s way, and that includes safeguarding children that work as actors and models,” Meng said in a statement today. “For too long, kids in entertainment and modeling industries have not been adequately protected in the workplace and it’s way past time for that to change. This legislation would finally accomplish that goal by shielding vulnerable child performers from workplace abuses that they constantly face and in many cases have been forced to endure. Only a federal law, rather than a patchwork of different state laws, can sufficiently protect these children throughout the entire country. I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this important bill.
As Deadline reported in October 2014, laws in many state laws designed to protect child actors are astonishingly lax. California, for instance, is one of the few states to specifically prohibit the employment of prematurely born babies on film and TV productions. In 18 states, there is no regulation or protection of them at all. California has the strictest laws governing child actors, and Linda Stone, who was then business rep for IATSE Studio Teachers Local 884, said it should be the national model. “There should be a national law for the protection of babies and children working in the entertainment industry,” she said.
The new bill would establish a maximum number of hours child actors can continuously work, based on their age, and would require that 15% of a child’s earnings be placed in a trust account until they turn 18, unless a financial need for the money is demonstrated. This provision is modeled after similar laws in California and New York, whose intent is to prevent parents from taking all the money earned by their children.
The bill would also create a private right of action for child actors and models who are sexually harassed, allowing children to sue their employers if sexually harassed while on the job. It would also require that compensation for child runway models be paid in cash wages. Meng said they’re “sometimes not fairly compensated for their work and are instead paid with unusable clothes or handbags that were worn in fashion shows.”
EXCLUSIVE:Peter Antico is fighting an uphill battle to become the next president of SAG-AFTRA, but he believes he has enough support from members to push him over the top when votes are counted Thursday. His supporters include Sylvester Stallone, Cuba Gooding Jr, Mickey Rourke, Andrew Dice Clay and Morgan Brittany.
A business and financial wonk, Antico blasted the union and its pension plans for failing to prevent a string of embarrassing embezzlements, and is harshly critical of what he sees as lavish staff salaries and reckless spending, including more than $5 million in rent last year for the union’s headquarters in Hollywood and more than $6 million in New York, and over $66,000 annually on SAG-AFTRA pins to be handed out a souvenirs.
“We spend approximately $24 million in rent all over the country that doesn’t provide any equity to the members,” he said in a telephone interview.
Antico, a veteran stuntman who’s outraged by the recent deaths of stunt performers on The Walking Dead and Deadpool 2, maintains that “there is not one safety provision written into our collective bargaining agreement, and the new contract takes away our much needed rest periods.” This, he said, “is criminal negligence and will cause additional deaths on the set.”
He hopes to cobble together enough support from working actors, stunt performers, background players, dancers, singers and voice-over artists to pull off a major upset.
“The singers, dancers, stunt performers and voice-over artists have received no gains but a cost of living increase in the last four contract negotiations,” he said. “This is supposed to be one union, and yet it seems to only benefit a very limited group of actors and the staff. And this year, on TV shows only, stunt coordinators only got a 5% increase in their flat rates, with no residuals.”
“Jobs for singers,” he said, “are disappearing through nonunion choirs, nonunion music library houses, and nonunion trailer music for the major films, whose production companies are signatory to our contract. These jobs are disappearing because we can’t get the union to fight for singers.”
Dancers, he said, are often “doing hazardous work that should come under the category of stunts, with wire work and acrobatics, and their salary does not reflect the jobs they’re doing. The union needs to do a better job fighting for them.”
Most of the union’s contracts have some coverage for extras, but limit the number of union extras that have to be hired. “Background artists didn’t get one more job added in the latest contract,” Antico said. “I believe all union jobs should be required to hire only union background, and there should be no job caps. If it’s a union job, it should be union jobs.”
Background extras, he said, “Should no longer have to pay call-in services to submit them for jobs, but have free access to every show in their region as a benefit of being a union member. SAG-AFTRA should be the call-in service, and refer background actors for all jobs in regions where they live. If you create benefits to belonging to a union, that will give people a reason to join. If there’s no value added, there’s no reason to join.”
He’d also create an “an updated membership portal which with the click of an app button, a performer can submit to any union job in any region in the country.”
An outspoken opponent of the new film and TV contract, which was approved overwhelmingly by members, he said that “enforcing the contract is number one, and it hasn’t been enforced in years.” And using technology, he said, is the best way to enforce it.
“There is widespread underpayment of residuals because of the lack of the proper tools to track them,” he said. “The first thing I’d do if elected is change the entire technology platform at SAG-AFTRA. I would change the way the business is run by using the tools of machine-learning, artificial intelligence and face and voice recognition so that we can track all performers’ content globally, 24 hours a day, in real time. These tools are available now but are not being used because the current leadership does not understand how to run a business. If you could track every time a performer was in an episode of television, a commercial, or film, you’d then be able to go after residuals on a factual basis.”
SAG-AFTRA members working on shoots outside the country, he said, are also only receiving a fraction of the residuals they’re owed, or none at all. “I have found that many American TV shows are being shown in Mexico, Europe, and Asia with the titles changed so that no residuals are paid.”
And he says that when films are shot outside the country under SAG-AFTRA contracts, the American casts are routinely being ripped off by residuals “pooling.”
“This needs to stop,” he said. “When a SAG-AFTRA performer works out of the country, residuals are supposed to be split amongst only the members of SAG-AFTRA. But the current illegal practice is that producers will add in all the foreign performers and dilute the residuals pool, cheating our members out of the correct moneys owed to them. For example, if there are 45 foreign actors and five SAG-AFTRA actors, the five SAG-AFTRA actors are supposed to spilt all the performers’ residuals under the SAG-AFTRA contract. But instead of the five actors splitting 100% of the residuals, they’re splitting 10% and the producers keep the other 90%.”
He’d also launch a major rebranding of the union. “In order to promote more union contracts, we must start branding ourselves. All we have now is a sign on a building and a business card.”
He says he’d also get out of the lease on the current headquarters and find a new location in Los Angeles and create a “Google-style campus where you would have broadcast studios, voice-over booths, miniature sound stages, rehearsal halls for actors and stunt people, a screening room, and computers and cameras so actors could upload and send their video auditions to producers.” Similar “performers’ communities” would be set up “in every major hub where SAG-AFTRA has an office.”
He said he also wants to create a “SAG-AFTRA channel and put it on a network, thus employing our own actors and enriching contributions to our pension and health plan.” All this, he said, could be done for much less than the union is currently paying in rent on buildings that “are not user-friendly and where actors feel like they’re in a government building where you can’t get in to see anyone.”
“I want to turn SAG-AFTRA into a profit-producing business model that creates equity to support all performers,” he said. And he says he wants to do all this with integrity. “I believe that the most important qualities to possess are ethics, principals and honesty, above all things. Since 2009, there has been a gross lack of integrity and financial accountability and transparency at SAG-AFTRA.”